The unemployment rate for women 20 years and older rose to 7.3 percent in December, from 7 percent the month before. Unemployment for men of the same age remained at 7.2 percent in December.
The persistently high unemployment rate for women is likely a result of the large cuts in state and local governments that have come over the last year as lawmakers slashed jobs to close budget gaps. The economy lost 13,000 government jobs from November to December, and has lost 68,000 since December 2011.
Women occupy about two-thirds of public sector jobs, according to Joan Entmacher, vice president for Family Economic Security at the National Women's Law Center. Women make up a large part of local government payrolls because they are a large proportion of the teachers in the country. The nation lost 53,900 local government education jobs in the last year.
"Women are really bearing the brunt of it," Entmacher said. "Many people were talking about the recession as something that was really a problem for men, but this is a demonstration that yes, the recession did hit men faster and harder, but now we have to be creating jobs for women and men."
Unemployment rose for single mothers, indicating that households headed by women could be especially vulnerable in the recovery. Such households are already at a disadvantage because women make less money than men. A recent Bureau of Labor Statistics study indicates that women made 82 percent of what men made in 2011.
As the government struggles to come to agreement on how best to handle the deficit, there will likely be more government jobs on the chopping block. That could be bad news for the 5.1 million women, aged 20 and over, who are still out of work.
Gale Satchell of Pittsburgh has struggled to find a job in a tight market. The 45-year old customer service rep has had sporadic employment over the last four years, and was on unemployment benefits for so long they eventually ran out. She recently found a job at customer service at the Internal Revenue Service, but it's not permanent.
"I had a lot of interviews, but I just couldn't get hired," she said. "I had no idea what the problem was."
©2013 Los Angeles Times
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